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This article argues that the integration of women in population development initiatives was largely the outcome of four overlapping historical events: the decolonisation of the South; the population ‘explosion’ following World War II; the momentous developments in contraceptive technology; and the re-emergence of women’s movements in the North. These developments pushed women to the forefront of development initiatives, in part because of lingering assumptions that population size is associated with poverty. As a result, policies heavily focused on reducing birth rates largely eclipsed those concerned with improving women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

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